Golden Suns drop pair of matches to ranked squads in crossover

Katie Huff moves into position as Sarita Stegall sets the ball during Friday's Golden Suns volleyball match. Credits: Matthew Emery/The Arka Tech
Katie Huff moves into position as Sarita Stegall sets the ball during Friday's Golden Suns volleyball match. Credits: Matthew Emery/The Arka Tech
Katie Huff moves into position as Sarita Stegall sets the ball during Friday’s Golden Suns volleyball match.
Credits: Matthew Emery/The Arka Tech

The Arkansas Tech women’s volleyball team gave undefeated Washburn and one-loss Central Missouri some of their toughest tests of the young season Friday on the opening day of the GAC/ MIAA Crossover. In the end, the Golden Suns fell 3-0 (25-12, 29-27, 25-18) to the No. 7 Ichabods and 3-1 (22-25, 28-26, 25-16, 25-22) to the No. 6 Jennies, but put up a fight in forcing the guests to play out each set.

In the day’s first match, Tech (6-5) picked up 26 digs from sophomore Madison Nagel — tying a season high — and 30 assists and 10 digs from freshman Sarita Stegall. Junior Kaylee Konsella led the team with nine kills while hitting .190, while sophomore Sara Stovall posted three kills on just nine swings to match a season high.

The Golden Suns started off slowly, and Washburn (10-0) compounded the problems by hitting .394 as a team in the first set, but they were able to reverse that trend in the second. The hosts started with a 2-0 lead, and responded to a four-point run by the Ichabods by getting back in front at 9-8. Tech again trailed, by as many as four, throughout the set, and faced a 22-18 deficit late. From there a pair of kills each from Konsella and McCall Wilkins — who combined for 11 kills in the set — pulled the Suns even at 24-24.

Another kill by Konsella and one from Stovall gave the Suns the lead at 27-26, but three straight from the Ichabods ended the comeback attempt.

Washburn jumped out to a 6-0 lead and was up 9-2 at one point in the third set before Tech ran off 10 of the next 13 points, highlighted by a pair of kills each from freshman Hunter Eshnaur and Huff, and big block from Eshnaur and Wilkins. That made it 13-12, and the Suns got to within one point three more times in the set, but couldn’t hold off the guests.

The momentum carried over for the Golden Suns into the evening match against UCM (11-1). Konsella posted nine kills while hitting at a .318 clip, while Eshnaur led the team with 13 kills. Huff added 10 kills and eight total blocks, including a career-high four solo, while Stegall dished out 35 assists for a total of 65 in seven sets on the day.

The Jennies went up 4-0, 5-1 and 6-2 in the first set, but Haley Owen—who posted four of her six kills in Game 1—started a run of five straight Tech points for the hosts to take a 7-6 lead. Another Owen kill tied it back up at 8-8 and started another five-point run to go up 12-8, but UCM charged back to take a 19-15 lead.

Kills by Owen and Konsella helped the cause, and a Nagel ace tied it back up at 20-all. An Owen kill, a block from Huff and Stegall, and kills from Huff and Eshnaur capped the 25-22 victory.

The second set opened with the two sides going back-and-forth until UCM broke an 8-8 tie with seven consecutive points. The Jennies held at least a four-point lead through 20-16, when the Suns crept back into it with kills from Huff and Stegall to make it 20-19. A kill from Huff and two UCM errors tied it at 22-22, and a Wilkins kill made it 23- all. Tech fought off game point three straight times before falling 28-26.

The Suns dropped the third set as well, but didn’t let that affect them in the fourth, twice coming back from big deficits. The Jennies led 13-7 and 16- 11, but Tech responded with four straight points from a 21-17 hole to tie it once again. They got as close as 23-22, but UCM closed out the set and the match with two straight points.

“We came out in the second match of the day and played really well,” coach Kristy Bayer said. “We were competitive and played hard against a very good team in Central Missouri. Unfortunately, you have to capitalize on every opportunity against a team like that, but I thought we played well. Tomorrow is a must-win for us.”

Tech closes out the two-day event with a 3 p.m. matchup with Pittsburg State back at Tucker Coliseum.

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